Meet the New McDonough Faculty: Kenneth Sawka
We are pleased to welcome new faculty members to the Georgetown McDonough community this fall.
In our Meet the New McDonough Faculty Series, learn more about the interests, specialties, experiences, and personalities behind the talented academics inside the Rafik B. Hariri Building on Georgetown’s campus.
We spoke with Kenneth Sawka, an associate teaching professor of strategy, about what he hopes to accomplish at Georgetown through his engagement with students, research, classroom teachings, and beyond.
What are you most looking forward to when it comes to working at Georgetown McDonough?
Meeting my students and being with them in the classroom. Having been an adjunct professor for the past 10 years, engaging with students, seeing their development, and knowing that I’m making a small contribution to their future career is incredibly rewarding for me.
What institution or previous line of work are you coming from?
I was an adjunct faculty member at Northeastern University and George Mason University. I also come from nearly 30 years experience as a business management consultant, specializing in competitive strategy, competitive intelligence, and geopolitical risk analysis. My most recent consulting firm is Pointe Advisory — a boutique strategic research and investment advisory firm — and I’ve had experiences with other boutique consulting firms, with Deloitte, and running my own firm for several years. Before all of that, I spent eight years in the United States government’s intelligence community.
What is your area(s) of expertise and which subject(s) are you most passionate about?
My main professional area of expertise is competitive intelligence and competitive strategy — focusing on understanding competitor capabilities, strategies, motivations, and intentions, and then setting strategy accordingly. My doctoral dissertation examined the strategic risks to organizations when an iconic founder leaves the scene and successor leaders take responsibility for guiding the firm’s strategic direction. That has sparked a research interest in the intersection between leader succession and organizational strategic risk.
What is your favorite quote and why?
One quote that has stuck with me for a long time is “in regione caecorum rex set luscus” — “in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king” (Desiderius Erasmus). It has been interpreted a number of different ways, but I look at this quote in two ways. First, be inquisitive. Those who probe and challenge conventional wisdom will see things differently in ways that can make a difference. The other interpretation is that all people are flawed, and someone with limited abilities has value and has a contribution to make. To be sure, there are other, less positive interpretations, but I’m going with these two!
What is your favorite podcast or book and why?
Two podcasts I enjoy for professional reasons are Freakonomics Radio and NPR’s Planet Money. Both explain human behaviors from a behavioral economics perspective in ways that always gives me good food for thought on what seem to be obvious — but hard to explain — phenomena. In a related vein, one of my favorite books is Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman — another book that explores how behavioral economics can explain a lot about business, choice, motivations, and human behavior. For pure escapism, any baseball related podcast, such as Baseball Tonight and The Athletic’s Baseball Show (I’m a huge baseball fan and have been to all 30 major league stadiums). For leisure books, I’m a fan of Daniel Silva spy novels, and have two on my shelf waiting to be read before the end of the summer!
How would you describe yourself in a few words?
Optimistic, enthusiastic, gregarious, but also, introspective.
What do you hope to ultimately bring to the McDonough community?
A real passion for teaching, practical business experience, and a chance to make a research contribution to add to the school’s body of knowledge.